For the most unusual dining experience, visit: Kafe Tselinnikov, located in the former Tselinnikov Palace, a Soviet-era building whose design is based on Astana’s heritage as the source of the best wheat flour in the USSR. This cafe is great for taking photographs, as they use vintage Soviet movie posters and offer free postcards with views of Nur-Sultan. They serve delicious Georgian food — try the khinkali and khachapuri — and their teapots are also spectacular (they use test tube-type constructions that filter the tea from a lower compartment to an upper compartment at your table).
Best view over the city? There is a lovely spot near the Ak Bulak River, across from the Mechta shopping centre, which has a tremendous view of both the new and old city centres. It is particularly breathtaking at night, when you can see the neon outlines of the city. To find it, go to Mechta (14 Amman Street), cross the road, and walk in the direction of the river for about five minutes.
The must-have Instagram snap is: Atyrau Bridge, seen from across the Ishim River, looks like a dinosaur skeleton made of metal lace. You can get cool pictures of the bridge itself, the view of the old heart of the city, or a selfie background like no other.
Must-try local delicacy: Plov is a great starting point to explore local food: while other local meat delicacies can take some getting used to, plov is gentle yet full of flavour. The Kazakh food is great at Astana Nury (Prospekt Respubliki 3/2), a restaurant with a chilled-out atmosphere, live instrumental music, and an amazing view of the river (it’s somewhat upmarket and their besbarmak is great for special occasions). You can find amazing and affordable Kazakh and Uzbek food at Rumi (Prospekt Abylai Khana 92a) — Tashkent tea and Khanski plov are must-tries. Turfan (10 Alikhan Bokeikhan Street) serves Uighur food and won’t break the bank. Make sure to try the lagman there, which is delicious.
The best building in the city is probably: The recently built Ryskeldi-Kazhy Mosque draws its inspiration from the shape of a traditional yurt. The building takes the yurt’s coziness and mixes it with Postmodernist flourishes, such as its diamond shape. It also makes use of sustainable technology, powering both itself and nearby buildings via solar panels. It is particularly stunning inside, where the use of clear glass fills the space with sunshine.
The best day-trip is: Borovoe has stunning mountains and lakes for swimming, walking, and skiing, depending on the season. It’s relatively accessible, but be wary of the influx of tourists during the summer months. Ereymentau has a unique range of both plants and animal species, and many historical sites including Turkic-era monuments. You can also find breathtaking mountain views and serene forests. Book a tour to Ereymentau here.
Where to party: Young people frequent 404 Bar Not Found, which hosts gigs by both great local DJs (such as nurboogie and kreshbeatz) as well as more well-known international artists. Tusamania is a series of independent parties with techno music and art or fashion shows. And then there is Bus Bar, which is the place to go if you want to catch local music. Monroe Bar is a local LGBTQ party venue that hosts drag shows. But make sure you have a Vkontakte account for finding the most recent Monroe locations as widespread homophobia means they have to be secretive.
Where to drink with the locals: The Hop Craft Beer Bar’s appeal lies in its clientele of mostly young, English-speaking locals, plus the relaxed vibe. This bar has a minimalistic decor and the beer is great. They encourage customers to bring take-out food from elsewhere, which is handy for late-night cravings.